The thing about is living here is fitting in. You need to be enough like everyone else so as you dont stick out, dont draw attention to yourself, dont appear too clever, too different.
The ones who find it the hardest are those who used to have something, a decent house, husband, polished wooden floors, a gym membership. They try and keep it going for a while, old friends come to see them in their shiney mummy mobiles, their kids clothes look ok for a while, until they grow out of them, they talk about getting a job. But, a winter here, the 2 mile walk in the rain to the school, the mind numbing day to dayness of no money and no-where to go and nothing to do, well, it gets to them. The dawning realsiation that all their wordly possesions now fit onto the backseat of a medium sized car, like i said, it gets to them.
So, they go home, back to the husband if they can convince themselves that he really has changed this time or off to mummy & daddy if they cant.
The rest of us, well we never had much and we’ve got no-where to go back to, so we’re here for the long haul. Waiting for that lottery win, that re-housing letter, anything really that will get us out of here, allow us to get on with our lives.
Most of the girls dont talk too much about their past, people drop hints, but you dont ask too many questions, we’ve all had years of too many questions, too many forms, too many nosey parkers sticking their beaks in where they’re not wanted.
Alicia’s been in and out of care since she was 3, Saara had a baby with the wrong boy, Megan’s got big scars up her arm she doesn’t talk about, Kayleigh’s got another kid who doesnt live with her.
Mostly though, we stick to the safe stuff, what we’d do if we won the lottery, moan about the kids, big brother, micro scams to make micro money.
Just killing time really , waiting for something to happen.
But when i leave Imeldas’ house, i do something i havnt done since i moved here, not immediately, of course, cos i’ve got to do the kids’ tea and bath and bedtime.
Its sunday, so its skint day, so tea is jacket potatoes for them and toast for me and washing up liquid in the bath cos i’ve run out of bubbles.
But, finally, they’re all in bed and i’m on the sofa and i get out my drawing book, the one I havnt looked at since i moved here. I used to be mad for drawing, loved it, even did the homework and turned up for all the lessons.
The art teacher said i was good, should think about art school, go on a foundation course. I didnt like to tell her I had no idea what she was on about. I googled foundation courses and it looked great, but I was cooking my first one, my girl, so i just nodded and smiled and then anyway I missed the art exam.
But, I’ve always kept a little sketchbook, I used to draw my baby and the other babies at the mother and baby unit. Sometimes, i drew tattoo designs for the other girls when they wanted a bit more than the tramp stamp baby name.
I went on drawing when i had my second, but something happened inside me when i moved here, when my 3rd baby came along. I guess i was just too tired, too busy waiting, drawing was something for kids and I didn’t feel like a kid anymore.
i look around for something to draw, but there’s nothing in this room that i want to draw, if I’m being honest, there’s nothing in this room that I even want to look at, but I really need to draw something, so I prop the little sketchbook on my stomach and I look down and start drawing my bare foot, chipped nail varnish, broken toe nail, sun burn lines where I’ve worn the same flips flops all summer.
When i wake up on Monday morning, I’ve still got this bubble of excitement. I tell the kids that we’re going for tea at the new girls’ and that we’re going to take a cake.
So, baby in the buggy, big ones holding onto the sides and we’re off and I really want to do this properly, make a good impression which is how I end up spending nine whole pounds on a rich chocolate cake. The icing is exactly the same colour as her skin and somehow I get this idea in my head of licking, tasting her skin and it being as sweet as this icing and i shake myself, pull myself together, get a grip and wait for the afternoon to pass so that we can visit Imelda.